Podrug (The Devil to Play, 2006, etc.) pens another tale for the estate of long-deceased writer Harold Robbins, of The Carpetbaggers fame, and explores the dirty underbelly of antiquities procurement.
Who would have ever guessed museum curators can lead such depraved lives? This improbable thriller exposes the money, greed and violence that lingers under the glass of museum exhibits. At the core of the story is Madison Dupre, a woman with lots of shoes and a black American Express card. Shallow, vain and out to claw her way to the top, Madison lands her dream job as curator of the small, private Piedmont Museum. There she sleeps with anyone who advances her career and doesn't spare a moment for life beyond her next acquisition, but when she thinks she's finally made it in the collector-eat-collector world of high-priced antiquities, the foul-mouthed curator finds herself in the middle of a growing scandal. It turns out that a celebrated death mask Madison procured for the Piedmont to media fanfare was really looted from the Iraqi national museum by American troops. When an elderly Iraqi man pops up at a museum gala to shout the truth about the mask, Madison finds her carefully constructed and very expensive world crumbling. Soon she's caught up in multiple murders and a web constructed of lies and unrelenting clichés that threaten her life and will undoubtedly cost her that black Amex she treasures even more than her designer duds. Determined to clear herself, Madison soon goes on the run. The FBI is right behind her, and beside her—both in bed and out—is a handsome rogue who may or may not be a remorseless killer.
Madison not only fails to garner any reader sympathy, she comes off like a man in drag, stuck in a plot hindered by details that seem added as page filler, but the novel picks up once she flees the country for Europe—though the reader may not hang on long enough to pass through customs.